Sydney AveyDynamic Women — Changing Times
Book Review: Phoebe’s Journey by Kathryn B. Collett
Phoebe’s Journey: Part 1 Of Passion and Pride imagines the life of one of the Apostle Paul’s benefactors. I was intrigued when author Kathryn B. Collett told me that Paul devoted two Bible verses (Romans 16:1-2) to Phoebe. Paul described Phoebe as a sister, servant of Christ, and benefactor. He chose this young woman from Cenchrea in Greece to deliver his letter to the Roman church.
I agree with Collett when she says in her Author’s Note that Bible stories mean more to us when we consider them in their cultural and political context. Why did Paul–who in these modern times has a bad rep for his attitude toward women–choose a woman for this task? And what would motivate a young woman to undertake a such a dangerous journey? To tell this story successfully, the author must ground the reader in history, geography, economics, and the details of everyday life in at the beginning of the Common Era. Collett does that.
Part 1 of what will be a three-part saga is a coming of age story. Phoebe demonstrates the callow stubbornness of a young person convinced of the justice of her cause and blind to the follies of inexperience. Stubbornness sometimes presents itself as an endearing female quality, but Collett makes it clear that the price for uninformed willfulness is high. When Phoebe insists on keeping her deceased father’s shipping business afloat by whatever means, the consequences to people she loves are severe.
Collett populates her story with many characters, but it isn’t long before we develop an understanding of who’s who and their relationships to each other. The author makes the point that fates intertwine in ancient Greece. One family member’s indiscretion or deceit affects numerous others in ways not easily undone. These are dangerous times.
The Apostle Paul
Paul is a background character in this book. Collett shows him to be far less dour that I normally think of him. At his best in the busy Chenchrea marketplace, he is a jolly sort. He is your local tentmaker, a good neighbor, and an eager community organizer. But the journey belongs to Phoebe. She is a female who insists on her right to participate in the family business. Like her male counterparts, she will have to learn the ropes.
What earned her a fifty-word testimonial in the Bible? She was willing to take risks. She invested in the growth of Christianity by bankrolling Paul. And she played an administrative role (deaconess) in the early church. I look forward to a more mature Phoebe’s travels on the road to Rome.
© Sydney Avey